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Posts for February, 2014

Report: US to Provide “Further Evidence” to Counter Uganda’s “Scientific Report” on Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2014

 

National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s Tweeted on Sunday saying, she “Spoke at length with President Museveni last night to urge him not to sign anti-LGBT bill.” In a following Tweet, she echoed Obama’s statement, adding: “Told him it will be huge step backward for Uganda and the world.” Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor this morning provided some additional information on that conversation:

Barely 24 hours after his Kyankwanzi pronouncement, the President was already facing the “battle” with the American National Security Adviser, Ms Susan Rice, calling Mr Museveni to express her government’s and Mr Obama’s reservations on the matter.

According to the Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Ambassador James Mugume, the Americans had called to offer “further evidence” that homosexuality is a natural behaviour in contradiction with what the local scientists had presented.

“We are discussing with the US government. We are waiting to see what they have [to present]. I am told that the Americans have some materials and evidence that they feel were left out by our scientists,” Mr Mugume said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Asked when the US was scheduled to table the said evidence, Ambassador Mugume could not give a clear time-line, only saying: “It will not take a lot of time. It will be soon.”

You can read Uganda’s “scientific report” here.

Video: “We Shall Have a War With the Homosexual Lobby of the World”

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2014

Uganda’s NTV has posted video of President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement that he will sign the Anti-Homosexualty Bill at his ruling party caucus this weekend in Kyankwanzi.

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There’s more in this broadcast of the program NTV at ONE. Skip ahead to the 25:39 mark:

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Why Did Uganda’s President Turn on Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2014

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni

That’s the political question being asked today. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is very well aware of the hit he’ll be taking internationally by giving his assent to the draconian legislation. A few months after the bill’s 2009 introduction amid international outcry, Museveni told his ruling party caucus that the government should “go slow” with the bill, citing foreign policy concerns. Later that year, Museveni’s cabinet reported that they had “rejected” the private member’s bill sponsored by M.P. David Bahati. His cabinet tried to repeat that assertion again in 2011. When the bill passed last December, Museveni lashed out at House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for rushing it through without a quorum, and just four weeks ago he told representatives from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights that he would not give his assent to what he called a “fascist” bill.

So why the turnaround? A Ugandan opposition paper thinks it’s purely a matter of domestic political calculations:

The Observer Editor Richard M Kavuma believes the president may have been guided by political calculations. Because he was keen to win over MPs on key issues such as denying suspects bail on certain offences, Kavuma said, the president may have decided to sign the popular bill as a concession.

“But it is also true that some of the president’s people may challenge the legislation in court and given Uganda’s largely progressive Constitution, they may get the bill declared unconstitutional,” Kavuma said.

“That way the president comes out looking good to his anti-gay electorate, while the judges will take the flak from Uganda’s generally Christian conservative population.”

Kavuma added: “Because the law is likely to fail anyway, the president may have found the political cost of signing the bill to be much lower than that of maintaining his locally ‘anti-people’ stance.  On the contrary, he will be praised across churches, shrines and mosques if he signs the bill.”

According to this analysis, there’s virtually no political cost in the short term domestically, and, if it plays out in court the way Kavuma believes, there’s no long term political cost either. In other words, it’s the most cynical plan conceivable. Nobody loses, except of course Uganda’s LGBT citizens, who don’t count in this calculation anyway.

The Observer also notes that Museveni’s announcement, made at a ruling party caucus this weekend, may have been aimed at tamping down internal challengers who may themselves have presidential aspirations. Museveni is all but assured to announce his run for re-election in 2016, when he will have already spent some thirty years as the country’s leader following a 1986 civil war.

Obama: Anti-Homosexuality Bill “Will Complicate Our Valued Relationship With Uganda”

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2014

The WHite House has issued this statement by President Barack Obama on Uganda’s pending adoption of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.

That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.

As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda. At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons.

Ugandan Pro-Government Newspaper: “Uganda Scientists Turn Homosexuality Debate Around”

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2014

New Vision, the government-owned newspaper, has weighed in on President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement that he will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law by posting on its web site the press release from the NRM ruling party caucus spokesperson:

PRESENTATION BY A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS FROM MOH AND MAKERERE UNIVERSITY ON HOMOSEXUALITY AND GENETICS IN HUMANS

A Ministerial Committee comprising of scientists from MOH and Makerere University was set up to study homosexuality and genetics in human beings and advise the President and the NRM Caucus on the subject of homosexuality.

The committee comprised of;

- Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng – Director General of Health Services

- Dr. Isaac Ezati – Director Planning and Development at MOH

- Dr. Jacinto Amandua – Commissioner Clinical Services

- Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi – Head, Mental Health Desk

- Prof. Seggane Musisi – Professor of Psychiatry at Makerere

- Assoc. Prof. Eugene Kinyanda – Senior Research Scientist, Medical Research Council

- Dr. David Basangwa – Director, Butabika Hospital

- Dr. Sylvester Onzivua – Senior Pathologist, Mulago Hospital

- Dr. Misaki Wayengera – Geneticist, Makerere

- Dr. Paul Bangirana – Clinical Psychologist, Makerere

- Prof. Wilson Byarugaba – Rtd. Professor and former Head of Human and Molecular Genetics, Dept of Pathology, Makerere

Two medical Parliamentarians names; Dr. Chris Baryomunsi and Dr. Medard Bitekerezo also presented a report whose findings and conclusions concurred with that of the Ministerial Committee.

The following were their observations;

1. There is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality.

2. Homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behavior which may be learned through experiences in life.

3. In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexuality tendencies.

4. Homosexuality can be influenced by environmental factors e.g. culture, religion and peer pressure among others.

5. The practice needs regulation like any other human behavior especially to protect the vulnerable.

6. There is need for further studies to address sexuality in the African context.

Presidential Advisor on Science Dr. Richard Tushemereirwe stated that homosexuality has serious Public Health consequences and should therefore not be tolerated.

H.E. the President then made it clear that his work was done and that all he needed was for the Scientists to sign the paper they presented since it would be a historical document forming basis for the signing of the Bill.

H.E. also declared that he would sign the Bill since the question of whether one can be born a homosexual or not had been answered.

The President emphasized that Promoters, exhibitionists and those who practice homosexuality for Mercenary reasons will not be tolerated and will therefore be dealt with harshly.

Hon. Anite Evelyn

NRM Caucus Spokes person

[All emphases in the original]

You can read the full report here.

Ugandan “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality” Surfaces

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2014

Ugandan Ministry of Health’s “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality”, dated February 10, 2014. Click to download (PDF: 2MB/12 pages).

Warren Throckmorton has obtained a copy of the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality.” He has also posted a Uganda State House press release announcing President Yoweri Museveni’s intention of giving his assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was passed by Parliament last December without a proper quorum.

Soon after Parliament acted, Museveni scolded Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in a letter for rushing to pass the bill, saying that it was important to find a “scientifically correct solution.” He then ordered a local team of doctors to report back to him on whether homosexuality was genetic. This question appears to be the sole factor in Museveni’s mind on the question of whether people are “born gay,” to the exclusion of very broad range of identified biological, non-genetic factors which have surfaced in the scientific literature over the past three decades. The “Scientific Statement” provided by local doctors barely scratches the surface of the genetic question before dismissing it. It does not explore the many studies addressing laterality, brain structures, pre-natal hormones, maternal immunological responses, etc., which suggest multiple and varying biological foundations for homosexuality later in life. The report however states:

Ultimately, all sexual functions are determined by genes and their interactions with the environment. Thus the causes of homosexuality can be traced to biological, social, environmental, psychological or a combination of them. These influence each other. Reparative therapies to change people’s sexual practices have not proven successful and their scientific validity has remained questionable.

The report then goes on to dedicate more than two pages to the question of whether homosexuality can be “learned or unlearned.” That section again reiterates, “The conclusion from the current body of scientific evidence is that there is no single gene responsible for homosexuality and there is no anatomical or physiological data that can fully explain its occurrence.”

This is true, if one were to expect there to be a single point explanation to explain every individual’s sexuality. In fact, researchers are studying the question from the basis of multiple potential factors, and they uniformly dismiss that fallacy outright. What the hundreds of studies identifying multiple biological foundations for homosexuality suggest is that there are multiple pathways to different expressions of sexuality, and some of those pathways or combinations of pathways may be present in some individuals, while other individuals may be the product of other factors, including different biological factors. In other words, there appears to be multiple biological foundations, rather than a single, clean explanation for homosexuality for every individual. This report fails to recognize the complexity of the question that is recognized in virtually every piece of published research on the subject.

Instead, the report dismisses known biological and physiological data and devotes considerable space in identifying what it contends to be environmental factors in the development of homosexuality:

Psychosocial causes of homosexuality imply that it may be learned through experiences in life. Previous disastrous heterosexual encounters (e.g. erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation) may lead to aversion towards homosexual intercourse. A chance homosexual encounter in early life may be associated with sexual pleasure leading to homosexual relationships being associated with pleasure. The increasing influence of Western culture provides homosexuality as a choice one can make, it’s therefore seen as a socially acceptable option for a few. In conclusion, homosexual tendencies can be taken up based on the person’s judgement on what is pleasurable for them. Why this happens to some people is  not clear, Whereas some homosexuals may take up the behaviour as an open choice, for others it may be due to indoctrination, In summary, homosexuality has no clear cut cause, several factors are involved which differ from individual to individual. It is not a disease that has a treatment. [Emphasis in the original]

The report states that “the essence of homosexuality would be an antithesis for the Darwinian evolution of sex in species largely because homosexuality does not offer an opportunity for the self-propagation of the species,” a common argument posed by anti-gay activists. It continues:

This has been a critical and fundamental argument by some scholars against the non-genetic basis of homosexuality, However, the counterargument has been for group survival, that some individuals in a group not overburdened by reproduction responsibilities would be available to give a hand to weak members of the group (e.g, the elderly and children) as happens in social animals. In our view, at least from existing knowledge and literature, there is no basis for a single, definitive structural genetic basis of homosexuality.

That said, the influence of the largely unstudied processes of epigenetics — which involves non-structural modifications of the genetic code, and represent one of the ways by which we learn many of our acquired traits that we can even pass on to our off-springs, cannot be ruled out.

The report then concludes with an argument for “the need to regulate sexualities”:

Throughout the world, human activity is regulated to ‘safeguard citizens, especially the weak and vulnerable, against the dangers inherent in human activities. Thus human sexuality also needs to be regulated especially as it is the core of the family and hence the nation. At anyone time rules and regulations are based on the current prevailing knowledge and understanding of what is to be regulated. This knowledge and understanding may change depending on the times and circumstances. Today the world has come to the realization that indeed homosexuality is a minority sexual expression practiced by some few members of the community. But, like heterosexuality, it needs to be regulated. No country, in the world today, has come up with a successful way to regulate human sexuality, hence the daily scandals and rapes of this world including sexual and gender based violence or human trafficking for sex. That vulnerable populations (including children, minorities, refugees, the poor, the elderly, mentally ill etc) need to be protected against sexual (and other) exploitations is not in question. African cultures had contained sexual vices. May be we need to revisit them to contain the present explosion of overt and coercive homosexual activity with the exploitation of our young children.

This report appears to have given Museveni the justification he feels he needs to give his assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  According to the press release from State House, Museveni spoke on the decision before the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus “amidst ululations and clapping by NRM members of parliament”:

The President emphasized that this is a job for the scientists before reading out a letter from USA scientist about the same debate. (Letter from US scientists to be sent to the media ASAP) “The authorities are these ones, the University Medical School and medical authorities. And since they have put this in writing…me my job is finished. The most important thing is on the three where there is no debate. On the promotion/recruitment of homosexuals no debate; mercenary homosexuals no debate and exhibitionism not debate. Leadership is not a joke. Don’t just sit there because somebody is calling you Your Excellency, Honourable and you think you are a God. You are just a servant and a servant does his best to do the right thing. That is why I want a scientific answer not a political answer. Let the scientists answer this. And according to the way they have answered it, if they mislead us they are the ones who are responsible,” he said.

A final draft of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has not been publicly released. According to multiple reports when the bill was passed by Parliament last December, it will impose a life sentence on anyone who is found to be in a gay relationship or who is a “repeat offender” of any other portion of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Other provisions include criminal penalties for providing lodgings or services to gay people, officiating a same-sex wedding ceremony, or advocated for or on behalf of LGBT people. Museveni has also reportedly told his caucus that he supports a constitutional revision to prevent suspects charged under the nation’s sodomy laws from being released on bail before trial.

Update: You can read the NRM’s press release about the report here.

Uganda President Supports Changing the Constitution to Scrap Bail for Sodomy

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2014

On the heels of reports that Uganda President Yoweri Museveni intends to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law comes more distressing news that Museveni also supports a change to the Uganda Constitution to allow holding people suspected of breaking that nation’s antiquated anti-sodomy laws in jail without bail:

The ruling party majority yesterday resolved to back President Museveni’s proposal to deny bail for sodomy suspects, defilers and rapists and tasked Ministry of Justice to expedite the process of amending the Constitution to that effect.

Mr Museveni, in a renewed call for the scrapping of the bail window for suspects in capital offences, told the NRM Caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi that the status-quo is encouraging crime in the country.

While corruption is not part of President’s list of targeted offences, sources told the Daily Monitor that “sodomy” was included at the behest of MPs who told their party leader that it has become such an “insidious” problem in the country.

…Caucus spokesperson Evelyn Anite confirmed the latest developments to the Daily Monitor that the Ministry of Justice was tasked to kick-start the process amid cheers from the ruling party members. “The President had proposed that bail must be denied to those who rape and defile others and MPs amended it to include those that sodomise others. The proposal was overwhelmingly supported,” said Ms Anite.

It would appear that Museveni is angling to out-populist the populist Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadagga, an early supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill who shepherded it through Parliament last December. She is reported to have ambitions for Museveni’s job in 2016.

Spokesman: Uganda President to Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill into Law

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2014

This news comes by way of J. Lester Feder at Buzzfeed:

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has decided to sign a law imposing up to a lifetime jail sentence for homosexuality, announced government spokesman Ofwono Opondo via Twitter on Friday. NRM caucus spokeswoman Evelyn Anite confirmed Opondo’s announcement to BuzzFeed.

This is a reversal for Museveni, who had written to members of parliament after the legislation passed in December that he had come to believe that homosexuality was a biological “abnormality” and not something that should be criminalized. He had also told Western human rights activists that he would reject the bill during a meeting last month.

Throughout the years since the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in Uganda’s Parliament, Museveni has made several attempts to sidetrack the bill. In 2010, four months after the bill’s introduction, Museveni told his ruling party caucus that the government should “go slow” with the bill, citing foreign policy concerns. Later that year, Museveni’s cabinet reported that they had “rejected” the private member’s bill sponsored by M.P. David Bahati. His cabinet tried to repeat that assertion again in 2011, only to be told that because it is a private member’s bill, it was not the cabinet’s to reject. After Parliament passed the bill last December despite not having a proper quorum as required by the constitution, Museveni denounced the bill in a letter to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and vowed to find a “scientifically correct solution.” He also told representatives from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights that he would not give his assent to what he called a “fascist” bill.

One possible development in Museveni’s reconsideration of the bill may be political. Speaker Kadaga, who is among the bill’s earliest supporters, reportedly has presidential aspirations and sees pushing Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a convenient populist move. Her pushing the bill through Parliament set up an interesting dynamic ahead of the annual NRM Caucus in January where Museveni had planned to line up support for his bid for re-election in 2016 to add another 5-year term to what will be thirty years in office. At least one of his ministers had threatened to resign if Museveni were to return the bill to Parliament, a development that would complicate his party’s coronation. Another turning point may have occurred two weeks ago when, according to a report in Uganda’s Observer, he “surprised his ruling NRM MPs on Friday when he said he would only sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, if he gets scientific proof that homosexuals are made and not born.” Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, also reported on that development, adding:

A source who attended the Friday meeting said MPs urged the President to sign the Bill. Dr Medard Bitekyerezo, MP for Mbarara Municipality, informed the President that nobody is born a homosexual but the behaviour is only acquired through training. “Homosexuality is not genetically transmitted. It is a behavioural deviation but on the negative side,” Dr Betekyerezo reportedly said.

Dr Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkizi East) said: “The President wanted the science which we gave him and he agreed with us that recruiters and promoters should be dealt with accordingly. We told him that homosexuality started as a result of adventurism.”

This development comes despite the American Psychiatric Association’s recent statement denouncing the bill and calling into question “the quality of the scientific pronouncements about homosexuality by Ugandan mental health organizations.” It also comes on the heels of today’s news that researchers in Chicago have identified a possible genetic link between homosexuality and the Xq28 chromosome and homosexuality in at least some gay men.

If Museveni signs the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, it will impose a life sentence on anyone who is found to be in a gay relationship or who is a “repeat offender” of any other portion of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Other provisions include criminal penalties for providing lodgings or services to gay people, conducting a same-sex wedding ceremony, or advocated for or on behalf of LGBT people.

Human Rights Activists: Ugandan President Pledges to Reject “Fascist” Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

January 18th, 2014

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights issued a press release saying that a delegation met with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni to discuss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This meeting follows a letter written by the center’s president Kerry Kennedy and retired South African Archbishop Desmund Tutu asking for a meeting. The meeting happened today in Entebbe:

The delegation – comprised of Ms. Kennedy, Santiago A. Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, and Wade McMullen, Staff Attorney for the RFK Center – expressed their grave concern over the legislation that would further criminalize homosexual conduct, censor freedom of expression, and ban civil society organizations working on LGBTI issues in Uganda. Archbishop Desmond Tutu who joined the conversation via telephone similarly expressed his concern, stating the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reminiscent of oppressive laws passed under apartheid in South Africa.

President Museveni pledged to reject the bill as currently drafted, calling the legislation “fascist.” The President stated that he will consult with his party and plans to introduce a new piece of legislation aimed at protecting minors from being coerced into sexual activity.

The RFK Center reiterated that the government should focus on enforcing the Ugandan Penal Code provisions that already outlaw both opposite-sex and same-sex sexual abuse of minors. Should new legislation be introduced along the lines of the President’s suggestion, the RFK Center strongly advised that any bill should only focus on strengthening current child protection measures, may not discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and must fully respect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

“I welcome President Museveni’s decision to reject this hateful bill,” said Archbishop Tutu. “It is time for our African brothers and sisters to move past the antiquated notion that someone could be a criminal for who they love.”

If Museveni holds to his promise, this would be welcome news. A news report yesterday erroneously suggested that Museveni had already pledged in a letter dated December 28to refuse to assent to the Anti-Homosexuality bill passed by Parliament a week earlier. Once the full contents of that letter became available, it became clear that Museveni had not made any such pledge at that time.

The letter also dwelled extensively on fears that individuals were being “recruited” into homosexuality by economic incentives. That concern, rather than child sexual abuse specifically, may be behind his motivation for new legislation, as pedophilia is often conflated with homosexuality in Uganda, as it is elsewhere in anti-gay circles. Museveni’s desire for new legislation bears watching, and it’s good that the RFK Center reminded him that the Uganda Penal Code’s provisions against child sexual abuse are already gender neutral.

Museveni has said that he will bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill up before his ruling party’s caucus for further discussion. There’s no word yet on when those discussions will take place.

In 2011, the RFK Center honored Ugandan LGBT advocate Frank Mugisha with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

Uganda President Denounces — But Does Not Block — the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

January 17th, 2014

My suspicions were confirmed. Buzzfeed’s J. Lester Feder has obtained a copy of the December 28 letter that Uganda President Yoweri Museveni sent to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga which an article in this morning’s Daily Monitor charactrized as “blocking” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As Daily Monitor pointed out, Museveni criticized Kadaga and Parliament for rushing to pass the bill without the proper quorum, an act that violates the Uganda Constitution. However, there is nothing in the letter to indicate that Museveni will send the bill back to Parliament as provided in the Constitution. Nor does he indicate whether he considers the bill to be legitimately sitting on his desk awaiting action. As Feder notes, this provides little comfort to Uganda LGBT activists:

Though Museveni argues the bill was not duly passed, under the Ugandan constitution, a bill sent by parliament to the president becomes law with in 30 days if he does not block it.

“The danger is he has the bill, and 30 days may end” without him taking formal action, (Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank) Mugisha said. The letter is dated December 28, which means Museveni has under two weeks at most to reject the bill. But the deadline could be as soon as Monday or Tuesday if he received the bill immediately after its passage on December 20.

Additionally, Mugisha said, Museveni’s long discussion of how homosexuality is “abnormal,” he added, could “increase hatred.”

Feder has posted the entire letter on Scribd. Certainly, the excerpts quoted in Daily Monitor represent some of the more inflammatory remarks, and those selective quotes certainly pose a danger of stoking readers’ homophobia. But reading the entire letter — once you get past the first two pages where Museveni discusses other matters — provides a great deal of insight into Museveni’s thinking which, at least in the Uganda context, is somewhat more “balanced,” relatively speaking, than the Daily Monitor article suggests.

On the whole, Museveni sees two kinds of gay people: people who are really gay (who he calls the “abnormals”), and those who, according to popular lore in Uganda, are “recruited” into homosexuality for economic reasons. What’s interesting is that in the second to last paragraph, he expresses his doubts that the second camp could be, as he put it “‘hooked’ into homosexuality.” As for the former group (the “abnormals”), he suggests, in his own way, that they are more or less born that way (to borrow a phrase that he does not use), and have the same right to exist as albinos, people with epilepsy, infertile women, and other “abnormals” who were also created by God.

Museveni also describes famous Ugandans from the pre-colonial era who were gay and who “did outstanding and really unique service to the respective communities, their private problems notwithstanding.” He also noted the British mathematician and cryptologist Alan Turing, “the genius mathematician that cracked the German Enigma code for the anti-Hitler alliance. … Only the other day, the Queen had to apologize to this sexually abnormal person but much more useful to society than the millions of sexually normal people.”

The entire letter, which I have transcribed below, is something everyone should read in full, as it shows a man who is struggling to come to grips with something that he does not quite understand, and is taking the time to try to think it out in writing.

…Recently, we had the anti-homosexuality Bill. This is, again, something we advised to shelve until we had studied it in depth. Some elements, however, insisted and, even without quorum of Parliament, “passed” it. How can you “pass” law without the quorum of Parliament after it has been pointed out? What sort of Parliament is this? How can Parliament be the one to break the Constitution and the Law repeatedly?

Coming to the substance of the homosexual debate, I would like to ask: “Who is a Homosexual?” My answer is that a homosexual is somebody who is abnormal because the normal person was created to be attracted to the opposite sex in order to procreate and perpetuate the human race. The same goes for other species — cattle, pigs, etc. Indeed, my Bishop of North Ankole, Rt. Rev. Muhanguzi, was partially right in one of his sermons when he asked the following question: “Ruhanga nabaasa okwehakanisa? — How can God contradict himself by saying in the Book of Genesis that Adam should be given a wife, Eve, and then also create homosexuals?”

Since I have not concentrated my mind on this subject, Bishop Muhanguzi’s question sounded logical. However, now that I have been forced to concentrate my mind on this issue by the actions of a small group of our MPs, led by the Rt. Hon. Kadaga, I can see the fallacy in Bishop Muhanguzi’s position. Who creates albinos? Is it not the same God that creates other people — Black Africans and Europeans? Do albinos create themselves? No. Simply, nature goes wrong in a minority of cases. Fortunately, our indigenous science has since millennia detected and described these abnormalities. Albinos are called nyamagoye. Homosexuals are called ebitiingwa or ebisiyiyagyi (Luganda). Epilepsy is called entsiimbo. A barren women [sic] is called enguumba (in the past it was not widely known that men could also be enguumba ). There is another abnormality known as “epa” — where a woman does not achieve puberty by not developing breasts (amabeere), pubic hair (enza), hairs in the arm-pit (ebyakyeeri)  or menstruate (okuzira). There are Mongols (ebigoori-goori), etc., etc. In Runyankore some of these are called amahano. In the pre-colonial times, I think, some of these were killed, especially epa. So were even lighter cases of, for instances, pre-marital pregnancy, ebinyandaalo. These abnormalities are different from disability, obumuga or oburema. The other is eihano (abnormal) and the other is ekimuga or ekirema (disabled). The difference is that a disabled person is a normal person but who got disabled in some aspect. Eihano is abnormal fundamentally mainly because the hormones malfunctioned.

The question at the core of the debate of the homosexuals is: “What do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or do we contain him/her?”

In the traditional society, it is not very clear whether they would kill these abnormal people. What is clear is that they would try to contain these abnormalities by being particular about the person they married (okushweera) or got married to (kushweerwa). They used to kutaasha (report on the qualities of the intended bride). Unfortunately, this has been interfered with by the concept of “falling in love at first sight” grabbed by our “modern” women and men. This is a big mistake. What do you know about problems (blemishes — emizze) of the person you have fallen in love with at first sight?

I suspect this has been the problem in Europe and the West. Even there, they had the same principles in the past — of careful selection. They, however, abandoned these in preference for money initially and, eventually, for just, freelance bonding. It may be this that has increased the phenomena of the abnormal sexual conduct. The abnormal people have increased.

Apart from the people who are born abnormal, it seems there is a larger group of those that become homosexual for mercenary reasons — they get recruited on account of financial inducements. This is the group that can be rescued. Possibly many of our youth fall in his [sic] category. How about the women lesbians? Apart from the ones that are abnormal and the ones that may become lesbian for mercenary reasons, there may be those that go into that practice because of sexual starvation when they fail to get married. Women are normally more than men for reasons I do not know. In the past, this imbalance could have been addressed by polygamy. Some of the religions de-campaign this traditional practice. What happens, then, to these surplus women? I normally separate spiritual matters from social issues, ever since the 1960s. Some confuse the two: If socially you behave in a given manner, then you are not spiritual, they seem to say. My private view, which I never seek to impose on anybody, is that people can have different social arrangements but be very spiritual. Can’t a Moslem who is polygamous be as spiritual, as godly, as a Christian who is monogamous?

The groups that can be rescued, therefore, are those who are homosexual or lesbian for mercenary reasons or on account of frustration — failure to get legal partners. The rescue for these mercenary deviants is, first and foremost, economic — rapidly industrialize Uganda, modernize agriculture, etc. Do not delay any project of factory, services or infrastructure. By so doing you are exposing those unemployed youth or impecunious students to these risks and temptations. If you do not do this and you only talk about legislation, you are a quack social doctor. Even with legislation, they will simply go underground and continue practicing homosexuality or lesbianism for mercenary reasons. By providing for UPE, USE, Government scholarship, the student loan scheme, etc. we are trying to rescue our youth from extreme need. However, these do not cover their other financial needs — pocket money, necessities like videos, poor parents, unemployed siblings, etc., etc. Do we not have legislation against prostitution? Why has it not stopped prostitution?

In addition to working on the social-economic issues of our youth with great vigour (instead of behaving as if we are doing a favour to the investors who bring projects here), yes, we should legislate harshly against these people with money, from within and without, who take advantage of the desperation of our youth to lure them into these abnormal and deviant behaviors. I would support a life sentence for the one who lures normal youth into these disgusting behaviours — especially homosexuality. On this one I would agree with the Bill passed by Parliament.

The unanswered question, however, is: What do you do with the really abnormal people? In the Ankole-Kigezi-Buganda-Tooro-Bunyoro-Karagwe area, in the last 200 years, I am aware, through rumours, that there have been, at least, three very prominent persons who were homosexuals. Two were kings and one was a prominent chief. Some of these did outstanding and really unique service to the respective communities, their private problems notwithstanding. Only the other day, I saw on television that Dr. Allan Turing, the genius mathematician that cracked the German Enigma code for the anti-Hitler alliance, at Bletchely Park in the UK, was a homosexual. This man, along with the discovery of radar, gave an unfair advantage to the anti-Hitler group and enabled them to win the war. Yet, the British chemically castrated him in 1952, where-upon he committed suicide, apparently. Were the British correct in handling that issue like that? The British no longer think so. Only the other day, the Queen had to apologize to this sexually abnormal person but much more useful to society than the millions of sexually normal people.

Therefore, the challenge is how to correctly handle the sexually abnormal on the one hand and those who use money or any other influence to recruit sexually normal people into this abnormal and disgusting behaviour. When we meet in the NRM caucus, we shall, I am sure, find a scientifically correct position.

Three final points. One is the reason given for the hurry in rushing some of these legislations: “There is a lot of homosexuality in schools, etc.” Yes, that may be so. What, then, does it mean? Does it mean that homosexuality is more attractive? OR is it because of the bad economic conditions for the families of these children that drive them into homosexuality for mercenary reasons? Is it not the same economic conditions for the rural families that I have been talking about since 1995 when I made a countrywide tour after successfully experimenting with socio-economic transformation in the Nyabushozi area? Who do we not, all of us, put more vigour in the struggle for homestead incomes using the resource the Government has been sending to the rural areas? With the Army officers and Hon. Kataike, we have been able to distribute more than 5 million seedlings of coffee since September, 1 million seedlings of tea, 235,000 seedlings of fruits, etc. If we all supervised NAADS in our respective areas of representation, we would have gone much further in putting incomes into the homesteads so that we eliminate the poverty that makes our youths vulnerable.

The second point is that people who become homosexuals for mercenary reasons will get “hooked” to homosexuality. I doubt very much. What is there in homosexuality that would attract a normal human being? A man to fail to be attracted by the beauties of a female body and is attracted to the anus (I now understand) of another man can only represent terrible sickness. Let us cure the economic conditions so that we can rescuer our youth and, then, see how to deal with the few abnormals that may be there among us.

Finally, I do not agree with the position of the Western countries that homosexuality is an alternative sexual orientation to heterosexuality. You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people. Nevertheless, you cannot say that because the abnormals are many, they constitute an alternative way of life. My acid test for rejecting that position is that nature is purposeful. One of the main purposes of man is to perpetuate life. You cannot perpetuate human life without copulation of opposite sexes for the majority of animal species. Even many plants rely on cross-pollination. It is only a few that rely on self-pollination. Therefore, homosexuality and lesbianisn, if not mercenary or out of social frustration (for sexually starved women), is an abnormality and must be treated as such.

Status of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Is Completely Up in the Air … Including, Possibly, Its Death Penalty

Jim Burroway

January 17th, 2014
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The above NTV report comes from the same media company that owns Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper. Earlier this morning Kampala time, Daily Monitor reported that President Yoweri Museveni had “blocked” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which had been passed in Parliament in December with an apparent lack of quorum. (The pro-government New Vision makes no mention of Museveni’s letter, at least not on its online edition. The Uganda Media Centre, the government’s official press office, is similarly silent this morning.) Most other major media outlets reporting on this development are citing the Daily Monitor story.

Museveni’s letter to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga criticizing Parliament’s vote on December 20 was dated December 28 but only made public today. All of this leaves up in the air the bill’s precise status. Does Museveni’s letter represent a formal rejection of the legislation under the Constitution’s Article 91 (3) (b)? That seems to be the assumption most media outlets are making. It’s certainly what the Daily Monitor story implies, although it doesn’t say so explicitly.

But if that’s the case, why is this being made public only today? If this were a formal rejection of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, that news would have come in handy last week at a meeting of Uganda’s foreign ambassadors in Kampala, many of them posted in Western countries where the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is deeply controversial. Instead, Ugandan envoys were told by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, according to the Daily Monitor report at that time, that “Before (the President) assenting to it, this matter (the legislation) will be taken to the Movement caucus which will advise accordingly before the Presidents signs it.” That caucus is expected to take place by the end of the month.

The other possibility is that this December 28 letter isn’t a formal rejection of the letter under the Constitution, but instead is a refusal to recognize that Parliament acted lawfully in passing the legislation without a quorum in the first place. This has been the consistent line that Prime Minister Mbabazi has repeated since the day Parliament acted. This may be the more likely possibility. But the uncertainty leaves the precise status — and more critically, the content — of the bill in doubt. After all, if Parliament acted illegally in passing the bill without a quorum, then that means that Parliament also acted illegally in holding its “Committee of the Whole House” where the proposed amendments to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill were debated and adopted. And if Parliament acted illegally in holding its Committee of the Whole House without a quorum, then that means that the death penalty has still not been formally removed from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and it reverts back to its original state when it was first introduced in Parliament.

All of this leaves the precise status of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill completely up in the air. Hopefully we’ll have more clarity in the next few weeks when the ruling party caucus meets.

Uganda President to “Review” Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

December 26th, 2013

The Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper says:

(President Yoweri) Museveni said he, “will first go  through the bill and if it is right, he will sign it into law but if he finds it not right, he will send it back to parliament”.

If cooler heads prevail, there are multiple ways in which cooler heads can slow-walk the Anti-Homosexuality Bill through its paces after it was impulsively passed by Parliament last week. Uganda’s constitution requires that Parliament sends the bill with all amendments incorporated to the President’s office “as soon as possible,” after which the President has thirty days to assent to the bill or send it back to Parliament with his objections. Since we don’t know how soon “as soon as possible” is, it’s not clear when that thirty day clock starts. If Museveni does send it back to Parliament, then Parliament will have the opportunity to consider changes to the bill, but will only have to pass it again with a simple majority to send it back to the President. If the President objects again, then he can send it back again, but this time it would take a two-thirds vote of Parliament for the bill to become law.

Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda is high enough that reaching the two-thirds bar would not be at all difficult. So the main opportunities to derail the bill would be to slow-walk it through its paces between now and 2016 when the current Parliament expires. Those four years may seem like an extraordinarily long time in most democracies, but Uganda’s Parliament runs on “Uganda time,” where bills have languished for a decade or more.

As for grounds that Museveni may use if he should decide to send the bill back to Parliament, he can find them in the minority report drafted by members of Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, which examines each clause of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and provides legal and constitutional grounds for rejecting the entire bill.

Uganda’s President Denies Anti-LGBT Persecution

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2013

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni reportedly told a visiting delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights that there was no marginalization or killing of LGBT people in Uganda. Both the government-owned New Vision and the independent Daily Monitor reported on Museveni’s remarks yesterday According to New Vision:

President Yoweri Museveni has said the issue of homosexuality and lesbianism has been totally distorted leading to wrong public debate.

“In our society, there were a few homosexuals. There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of these people but they were regarded as deviants. Sex among Africans including heterosexuals is confidential,” Museveni said.

“If am to kiss my wife in public, I would lose an election in Uganda. Western people exhibit sexual acts in public which we don’t do here,” he said, adding that, Africans do even punish heterosexuals who publically expose their sexual acts.

The president said what is new is the way Europeans and other Western people handle the issue of sexuality in general, including public flaunting which is a problem and luring young people into acts of homosexuality for money.

He said attempts to promote homosexuality as an alternative way of life has led to engagements in running battles with the church.

“You have a lot of room in your house, why don’t you go there. Sex is a bilateral issue, not a multilateral one,” he said.

Among the delegation was Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy. In 2011, the Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights honored Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. According to Daily Monitor:

Ms Kennedy, who was accompanied by several lawyers, actors and religious leaders, expressed concern over the pending Anti-Homosexuality bill, reports of harassment of the Gay and Lesbian Community in Uganda and over the exposure of the identities of sexual minority groups. She also said the pending bill on homosexuality works against the international law treaties that Uganda has signed. Ms Kennedy cautioned against the misconceptions that equate paedophiles with homosexuals.

New Vision reported that Kennedy also told Museveni that “it is a violation of people’s rights to put pictures of sexual minority groups in the [news] papers.” Museveni reportedly promised to investigate:

Reacting to various issues raised by the team, Museveni said he would investigate claims of violence against homosexuals, adding that for a viable solution, activists must respect the confidentiality of sex in our traditions and culture. He reiterated that in Uganda, “there is no discrimination, no killings, no marginalization, no luring of young people using money into homosexual acts”.

Museveni did not directly address the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which still incudes the death penalty for what it defines as “aggravated homosexuality.” Some observers believe that in these statements he was distancing himself from the proposed legislation. I don’t see it that way at all. Besides, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been an exceptionally useful tool for Museveni’s government as it pursues other political agendas.

The bill still remains on Parliament’s agenda, under the heading of “Business to follow,” where it has occupied various spots since November. Parliament is currently on break until April as it wrangles over the highly controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill, which is wrapped up in highly emotional arguments over women in society and, in addition, pits government policy against entrenched and longstanding tribal practices. In fact, it was a walk out by women MP’s in a dispute over the Marriage and Divorce Bill in the closing days of the Eighth Parliament in 2011 which prevented the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from coming to a vote. With the Marriage and Divorce Bill back on the agenda, it appears that the AHB is again playing its normal role, having been placed on stand-by in case a unifying vote is needed to  heal fractures in Parliament, or if a popular vote is needed to salve outraged sectors of the general public.

Uganda President’s Remarks “Split” Anti-Gay Activists

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2012

According to this NTV report, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni’s remarks last weekend has stirred some controversy, pitting die-hard anti-gay activists against fanatic anti-gay activists. (Yeah, I can’t tell the two camps apart either.) As you watch this report, it may help to have this dance card handy so you can keep the characters straight:

Pastor Solomon Male: He is against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, not because he thinks gay people shouldn’t be jailed, but because he thinks that the law would actually end up protecting powerful gay people in government and business. In October, Male was convicted by a Uganda court of conspiring to tarnish a rival pastor’s reputation by accusing him of homosexuality.

James Nsaba Buturo: He is the former Ethics and Integrity Minister who was among the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s strongest supporters. One U.S. State Department cable posted to Wikileaks described Buturo as “obsessed” with the bill. In this report, Buturo again claims that the death penalty provision as “a falsehood which has been spread around the world,” despite the bill’s exceptionally plain language spelling out the death penalty specifically. Buturo was among the Ugandan officials who met with American anti-gay extremist Scott Lively in 2009 just as the idea of drafting a new Anti-Homosexuality Bill was taking shape.

Pastor Martin Ssempa: The famous “Eat-Da-Poo-Poo” pastor, believed to be linked to the now-defunct Rolling Stone tabloid (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name), which launched an infamous 2010 “Hang Them!” vigilante campaign which featured LGBT advocate David Kato on the front cover. Kato was brutally murdered just a few months later in January 2011. Ssempa was convicted in October with Male as part of the conspiracy to accuse a rival pastor of homosexuality.

Uganda (Seemingly) Backs Off From Anti-Homosexuality Bill (Maybe) (For Now)

Jim Burroway

December 13th, 2012

Uganda’s WBS Television posted this statement from Prime Minister  Amama Mbabazi, who addressed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which is now before Parliament:

In Uganda, we have had homosexuality for generations. Everybody knows it. You know, various local languages, we have a name for homosexuals, don’t we? We do. That means it has been there. Whoever had the homosexual was.. was killed. But there is a way in our cultures, we handle them to show our displeasure and no-acceptance of homosexual activities — homosexuality and homosexual activities, you should mark the difference between the two. Okay?

We know that in our own Penal Code, we carried this from the British. We amended this law, the Penal Code by Parliament (I’ve forgotten the year). That particular provision was amended. So it is unlawful already. So to the extent that it is unlawful, and the attempt in this bill to repeat what is already unlawful is not something we’ll support, supporting what is already in the bill. Why? Why won’t we support it? Because it’s already covered.

But there are certain aspects which may be new, like promotion of homosexuality, things like that. Those are things, when we come to debate, we’ll [unintelligible]… We set up a committee which has made a report, we go through this…

It’s a puzzling statement. While he doesn’t say so directly, Mbabazi appears to distance himself and the government from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, while simultaneously referring to perhaps retaining Clause 13 (which bans all advocacy for LGBT rights) or other recommendations which the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has reportedly made but has refused to make public. Nevertheless, Mbabazi’s statement is notable. He was one of the figures believed to have “blocked” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when it came up in the previous Parliament, and Ugandan LGBT advocates last week targeted him in a Twitter campaign urging him to speak out against the bill.

As always, we need to look at these latest developments in a broader context. During an unannounced session late last Friday, Parliament passed a contentious Petroleum Bill, which concentrates exclusive power to negotiate exploration and drilling contracts in the hands of the presidentially-appointed Energy Minister and cuts all outside observers out of any oversight role. Parliament has 375 members, and exactly 188 members — just half a member above the magic 187.5 halfway mark for a quorum — just happened to be in the chambers for the fateful vote, which passed easily. Wow! Who would have thought that they would have been able to round up the exact minimum number from among those who just happend to be hanging around the Parliament building late on a Friday afternoon? It wasn’t a unanimous vote — it was 149-39 — but just by showing up to form a quorum, those thirty-nine no votes were, for all practical purposes, yes votes.

President Yoweri Museveni now gained control over the country’s oil. And with word of the maneuver coming out in what we Westerners recognize as a classic Friday afternoon news dump, the country had the weekend to decide that there was no point in protesting any further. Ubiquitous corruption has a way of numbing the senses. And so the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which had been waiting in the wings in case a diversion was needed, has now been pushed down from the top spot to number 6 under “Business to Follow” on Parliament’s Order Paper for yesterday (DOC: 37KB/2 pages). Today’s Order Paper (DOC: 33KB) shows that Parliament will meet for a Special Sitting for an address by Museveni, undoubtedly to talk about why it is so important for one person to control the country’s entire oil wealth.

Pope Benedict XVI and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga (via the Uganda Parliament web site.)

Meanwhile, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who helped  engineer the bill’s reintroduction in February and called for its passage before Parliament begins its Christmas breaks on December 15, has suddenly turned up in Vatican City yesterday, where, according to the Parliament web site, she received a special blessing from the Pope while leading a delegation for a World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights. All of the sudden that Christmas deadline doesn’t seem so important.

Which is just as well, since Museveni has a lot on his plate right now. Back last summer when talk first emerged that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be revived, the only thing anyone could see on the horizon was the contentious Petroleum Bill. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill would make a handy wingman, if you will, to divert attention away from the Petroleum Bill, if needed. But other nasty surprises have cropped up since then. In addition to pushing the first and most contentious of two Petroleum Bills through Parliament, Museveni is furiously trying to broker some kind of a truce/cease-fire/peace deal between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the M23 rebels in the eastern part of that country after a United Nations report blasted Uganda and Rwanda for supporting the rebels.

And Museveni is having to contend with foreign aid cuts in response to a massive corruption scandal in the Prime Minister’s office — that would be the very same Prime Minister who issued the statement above. Germany, Britain, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden have all announced cuts to direct government-to-government aid to Uganda following revelations that foreign aid funds have wound up in the private bank accounts of several people in the Prime Minister’s office. Uganda, for its part, has acknowledged the scandal (it was a Ugandan auditor which brought it to light). Museveni’s government has taken notice and vowed to refund the stolen funds — with the Ugandan taxpayers footing the bill. Interestingly, when Germany announced its aid cuts, Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel specifically cited Uganda’s meddling in the Congo and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as reasons number two and three respectively (reason number one, of course, was the  foreign aid scandal). But a spokesperson for Museveni took pains last week to deny that the Congo mess or the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had anything to do with Germany’s announcement:

It is not true that the suspension is a result of false allegation by the UN group of experts that Uganda supports the M23 rebels in the DRC. Being a member of the UN Security council, The Federal Government of Germany is satisfied with Uganda’s role in the pacification of Eastern DRC, under the mandate of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region that is currently chaired by President Museveni.

It is equally NOT true that the suspension of Aid is tagged to the current debate in parliament on Homosexuality.

While that’s going on at home, Museveni found time earlier this week to take a trip to Russia where he was “decorate(d) with the highest award order of valour, honour and glory of the Eminent Military and Political leaders of Africa.” Whatever that means. Why he’s really there is anybody’s guess. The last time he went to Russia, he came home with some expensive MiG jet fighters and left it to Parliament to figure out how to pay for the unbudgeted multi-million dollar aircraft. Whatever Museveni’s doing there this time, nobody knows. But he took the opportunity to lambast the West for its “hegemonism and imperialist practices. …Whatever is pushing those actors [in the West]; they are making a big mistake. Cooperating with Africa is the wise thing to do.”

So, this is what we have. Uganda has gotten more of its share of international attention due to scandals, civil wars and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and all of that attention has been decidedly negative. And we see that Ugandan officials are visibly striving to put out at least two of those fires in order to get back into the West’s good graces. And with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill dropping to priority six on Parliament’s “Business to Follow” and Prime Minister Mbabazi’s statement at the top of this post, we may be seeing positive movement on the third fire. It turns out that the negative attention internationally has outweighed whatever diversionary value the bill might have had domestically. Speaker Kadaga’s “Christmas gift” to the Ugandan people just might end up being not passing the bill. At least for the time being.

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